Your Face Tomorrow – Poison, Shadow and Farewell – Javier Marías

Late this year the final volume of Your Face Tomorrow by Spanish author Javier Marías was translated by Margaret Jull Costa and published in English.   Above is the UK edition dust jacket which I really like (in the U.S. the books have been published by New Directions, but I have to say I don’t much like their cover artwork, as seen below).  I put in an order with Amazon UK, got the book about a month ago, and just finished the book yesterday.

These books are unlike most novels published today, far more meandering and discursive, yet with a keen underlying focus on some of the big topics: secrets, lies, betrayals, violent acts – the ability to both deliver then and live with them, interpreting others both from verbal communication and physical acts.  Marías definitely takes his time, drawing the acts of a single evening out for a hundred pages or more, with long conversations and equally long interior monologues.

Today a review by Larry Rohter ran in the Times, here are a few bits from it:

“Poison, Shadow and Farewell” opens and ends with a dedication to Mr. Marías’s father, the philosopher Julián Marías, who died in 2005, and to Peter Russell, an Oxford professor and former intelligence operative who was Britain’s leading academic authority on Iberian history and culture until his death in 2006. In a fundamental sense all of “Your Face Tomorrow” is an extended homage not just to the two men, both of whom appear in slightly altered guise in the novel, but also to their entire generation. During the course of the work Mr. Marías turns repeatedly to the times of World War II and the Spanish Civil War, which he seems to view as more serious than ours, for examples of the moral dilemmas that are perhaps his central concerns, drawing on the experiences of his father and Russell.

“Your Face Tomorrow” requires patience, effort and intellectual discipline of the reader. “Poison, Shadow and Farewell” delivers a payoff at the end, but the real challenge, and pleasure, is in getting there.

As the review states, these books are both a challenge and a pleasure to read.  Lately it seems like between Marías and Roberto Bolaño, some of the best fiction in recent years was written in Spanish.

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